What Is God’s Plan For Me?

This past weekend, I attended a conference for Christian women. It was an event filled with inspiring speakers, great food, and amazing girls. It also required more walking than I ever thought I’d do in a lifetime. This conference was held on a large college campus and every workshop, dinner, and worship time were all located at least two miles apart from each other. One night, we all walked to a dinner party and it rained cats and dogs the whole way. We sloshed through the puddles in skirts and sandals, trying not to get run over as we scrambled across the streets. Needless to say, our hair and makeup were thoroughly ruined by the time we arrived at the party. It was all I could do to keep putting one soaked foot in front of the other, reassuring myself that we were almost there, even when we still had a ways to go.

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Sometimes this is what life feels like. As a senior in college, I am desperately searching for a plan, a straight and narrow path that I can follow. Instead, I am walking too slowly in the rain, praying that I can somehow get to my destination quicker. Christians are so often told that we need to give our lives to God and trust in the plan He has for us. But many of us still struggle because in spite of trusting God, we don’t know what He wants our next step to be. I’ve heard many Christian women say that it was a challenge for them to give up the plan they wanted for themselves and follow God’s will instead. And I’m always tempted to ask, How can you tell the difference?

I have the hardest time discerning God’s plan for me when it comes to dating. A few months ago, one of my best friends married a wonderful guy she met on Christian Mingle. I decided that it was time for me to find a partner as well so I signed up for the site. And it was a complete waste of my time. Not because there weren’t any good guys on the site, because there were. No, it was a waste of my time because I could not have cared less about starting a relationship with any of those men. The entire time I was on this dating website, I felt ridiculous. Because for my entire life, I had dreamed of getting married right out of college and starting a family. God had given me an opportunity to make that happen through online dating and I continually turned Him down. I prayed constantly. And I worried constantly. I tried so hard to figure out if I was following God’s plan or fighting against it by signing up for online dating. Then, I tried to figure out if God really wanted me to reject those guys or if I was turning away from the person He had chosen for me. I combed through Bible verses but didn’t get the answer I was searching for. Scripture makes it clear that God is just as happy with His children being single as He is with them being married. We all have a different purpose in life. I just wish I knew what He wanted from me specifically. I did find in my reading, however, that I should not be afraid of what I do not know:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

There was an amazing speaker at the conference I attended who talked about doing a triathlon after she finished chemotherapy. She said that when the task seemed impossible to finish, she focused on the next hundred yards in front of her. Against all odds, she finished the race because she took it one step at a time. This is how life needs to be looked at. Whether you are stuck out in the rain, trying to finish college, or going on a date. We are not meant to know God’s whole plan for our lives. We are meant to focus on overcoming the next hundred yards in our walk with Christ. If He got us this far, He will continue to lead us to the finish line.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy The Guilty Christian and Who God Made You To Be

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Easy Angel Food Mug Cake

Do you ever want something sweet but don’t want to bake a whole cake or tray of cookies? If so, then this microwave mug cake recipe is about to become your best friend.

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This recipe is insanely easy and delicious. And it’s a perfect single-serving portion! Of course, I won’t judge you if you choose to make more than one. These little cakes are addicting! They are also low in calories because angel food cake has so much air in it. To make this single-serving cake, you will need:

1 16 oz box of angel food cake mix

1 16 oz box of cake mix (any flavor)

Dump the two boxes of cake mix into a gallon-sized plastic bag or plastic container. Use a spoon to stir the mixes together. Then on the container, write 3 Tbs Cake Mix + 2 Tbs Water. This way, you won’t forget the measurements. And that’s it! This mix will make a ton of mug cakes before it runs out. I’ve had mine stored in a kitchen cupboard for over a year and it still hasn’t spoiled.Whenever you feel like making a single serving of cake, stir three tablespoons of the mix with two tablespoons of water in a coffee mug. Microwave for one minute. You will have a delicious, spongy, low calorie dessert!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like How to Make Homemade Chicken Broth for FREE

Glorifying God in Singleness

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Being single is often frowned upon in the Christian community. What’s even worse is when someone says that they want to be single, that they would rather not get married and/or have children. Anyone who says this, aside from nuns or the Pope, is thought to be ungodly and selfish. After all, critics will say, God made Eve to compliment Adam. He told them to be fruitful and multiply. A marriage relationship is, without a doubt, considered sacred by God. The importance of marriage is highlighted in these verses:

The Lord said, “It is not good for a man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” – Genesis 2:18

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22

Some people will use these verses to justify their claim that marriage is a necessary rite of passage for good Christians. However, these verses do not mean that someone has to get married to glorify God. The Lord wants us to treat marriage with the utmost honor and respect, similar to how we treat our relationship with Him. Yet sometimes, the best way to honor the bond of marriage is to remain single. Consider these verses:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”- Matthew 19:3-12

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. – Corinthians 7:8-9

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. – Corinthians 7:32-35

As the verses above explain, marriage is a wonderful thing. If you want to get married then you should. However, a person should get married for the right reasons. A couple should make their vows fully intending to spend the rest of their lives together because that is how God designed marriage to be. If a person gets married for any reason other than complete love and devotion to their spouse, then is it really worth the trouble? Is it necessary to tie yourself to someone for life just for the sake of doing so? I see so many Christians waiting, begging God to send them a spouse for one reason or another. They don’t want to be alone. They want to have children. They don’t believe that adulthood starts until one is married. They believe that marriage is in God’s plan for them and they just can’t understand why He hasn’t sent them Prince or Princess Charming yet. I have fallen into this way of thinking in the past, which is easy to do, especially as a Christian woman. However, anyone who thinks these things is missing the point of God’s plan for them and for marriage in general.

There are several verses that compare the world’s relationship with God to a wife’s relationship with her husband:

“ I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” – Revelation 21:2

Jesus chose to love the world as a husband loves his wife and vice versa. And when Christ died for us, He did not do so because He was lonely or because He thought we had anything to offer Him. He did it because He loved us with selfless, crazy devotion. Do not marry someone unless you feel the same way about them. Jesus and His disciples were able to glorify God in their singleness. We can do the same if we choose to.

If you like this post, you might also enjoy: Who God Made You To Be and The Guilty Christian

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The Guilty Christian

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I have always struggled with feeling guilty for my mistakes. And as a Christian, it is easy to think that guilt is a good thing. After all, doesn’t Christ want us all to realize that we are lost sinners without Him? Doesn’t He want us to feel guilty for our wrongdoings so that we will repent? In a sense, yes He does. But the devil can easily take Godly, repentant guilt and twist it into a trap that we feel is inescapable. What I mean can be best summed up by this verse:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” – 2 Corinthians 7:10   

When the devil takes hold of our guilt, suddenly we don’t make mistakes anymore. Instead, our mistakes make us. Our faults are not things we’ve done and can improve upon. They feel like character flaws, inherent and unchangeable. When we regret what we’ve done, the devil enables our regret to destroy us. That is what worldly grief feels like. Godly grief, on the other hand, paints a very different and redeeming picture of our mistakes.

So how is Godly grief different from worldly grief?

Godly grief does not compare:“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”- Romans 3:23. It’s easy to feel guilty when we look at people who seem to be doing so much better than us. I know that I feel like I am a ‘good Christian’ until I see people who appear to be much more passionate about Christ than I currently am. Then I suddenly feel like I am not doing enough to glorify God. In reality, we are all sinners and no one Christian is better than another. Most of us are doing are best to follow Jesus and He is using us in different ways.

Godly grief does not condemn: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1. The worst part of guilt is the fear that we have disappointed God and that He will punish us for what we have done. But scripture reminds us that this fear is unfounded. God knows what we will do long before we ever do it and He has already forgiven us. So we have His permission to forgive ourselves.

Godly grief brings peace: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1. It is unnecessary to have any regret over our sins because Christ already took care of them on the cross. Our faith in Jesus means that we can let go of our past mistakes.

Godly grief does not worry: “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7. We need not worry about the effects our mistakes will have on our lives. Any time you catch yourself getting caught up in the should haves, would haves and what ifs of regret and worry, remind yourself Who is really in control. God took our mistakes into account when He devised His plan for the world. Things will work out the way they are supposed to when you put your faith in Him.

Godly grief removes shame: “As far as the eastern horizon is from the west, so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.”- Psalm 103:12. God wants us to feel guilty for our sins so that we will repent and come to Him. But once we do that, guilt is no longer needed. The devil may lie to you and say that because God holds Christians to a higher moral standard, we have more reason to feel guilty for our transgressions. But Christ says that because of Him we should not feel any guilt at all. We don’t need to dwell on the past or feel shame for what we have done. God will turn our mistakes into something beautiful when we let Him.

If you like this post, you might also enjoy: Who God Made You To Be and Ruth

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8 Ways I Saved Hundreds of Dollars On Textbooks

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I remember when I was an upcoming college freshman buying textbooks for the first time. I was so excited to finally be taking classes I was interested in instead of the boring core classes they make you take in high school. Brimming with enthusiasm, I went on my school’s website, signed into my account, and went to the page that told me what books were required for my classes. I saw books about modern philosophy, abnormal psychology, and ancient history. For the first time in my life, I actually wanted to read my textbooks! I was already liking college so much more than high school.

Until I saw the prices.

I was shocked to realize that if I purchased all of the required books through my school’s bookstore, I would spend around $700. Outrageous! I called my friend who had just completed her freshman year of college and asked how in the world she was able to afford books. Her explanation saved my wallet over the next four years.

    1. Buy Used: My friend explained that under each required book that was listed, there was an ISBN number that identified that book. Copy the ISBN number, paste it into the Amazon.com search bar, and Amazon will show you every copy of that book that is being sold, starting at the lowest price. The lower priced books are used and tend to show some wear. However, it does not matter how badly beat up a book is so long as you can still read it. Some college textbooks are being sold for less than $5!
    2. Compare Prices: After you find your books on Amazon, open two more windows and search for the books at Chegg.com and UsedTextbooks.com. Have all three windows open at once and compare prices side by side. Be sure to factor in discounts as well as shipping and handling to find the best price.
    3. Rent: These sites will also give you options to rent the books. The upside to this is that you will pay less to rent a book than you would if you bought it. The downside is that you won’t have the option of re-selling the book after your class is over.
    4. Re-sell: Keep in mind that books usually re-sell for less than what you bought them for, plus there is a hassle to listing and shipping them. However, there have been one or two books that I was able to sell for the same price I paid for them, meaning I got to use them the entire semester for free! I usually buy my textbooks used because I’ll be able to sell them back later. My first semester, this worked out really well for me. I was able to sell back all of my books for a decent price so that I ended up saving a lot more money than I would have if I had rented. However, now that I procrastinate more on buying and re-selling books each semester, I’m lucky if I even make back $30 for all my books.
    5. Start Early: A word of warning: Do not wait until the last minute to buy textbooks. The longer you wait, the more you will pay when you buy them because the cheapest options go first. Another tip is that if you are planning to sell back your books, list them as soon as possible. Their value will decrease as newer editions of the book are published.
    6. Social Media: Another thing you can try to save money on books is to check Facebook. Request to be added to your college’s facebook page. Tons of people will be selling their used textbooks right before classes start and after they end. You can find some great deals and you can meet up on campus to avoid shipping fees.
    7. Discounts: The last thing you can do is search the internet for discount codes for the site that you are buying books from. My school sells students their books through eFollet so I just googled eFollet discount codes to see what came up. A lot of these codes will be invalid or expired but I have found some that actually worked and saved me money.
    8. Free Gift Cards! Did you know there is an easy way to get free gift cards to Amazon.com and other stores? It’s a website called Swagbucks. I started using the site a few years ago and I always use my rewards points to buy Amazon gift cards and put them toward textbooks. It easily adds up to $30 off my bill every semester!

By using each of these methods, I went from looking at spending $700 on textbooks in my first semester to only spending $300! That’s $400 in savings. Multiply $400 in savings over eight semesters, that’s approximately $3,200 you can save on books in your undergraduate career! It takes a little extra time to find the best prices, roughly 30 minutes total, depending on how many books you need. However, looking at the numbers, it is definitely worth it to take some time to save all that money on books.

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How to Make Homemade Chicken Broth for FREE

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This weekend I finally had time to try making homemade chicken broth. Not only did it turn out to be delicious, but I made it almost for free! The trick is that I only used food scraps that I would have thrown out. I used:

1 rotisserie chicken carcass

Carrot peels (washed)

Celery trimmings (washed)

Water

Salt

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Onion peels, garlic peels, and potato peels could also be added. Basically, you can use any food scraps as long as they are clean, edible, and haven’t spoiled. (Note: Make sure to wash whatever you throw in the pot because you don’t want dirt getting into your food). Some people have a bag that they use to save their scraps and store them in the freezer until they make broth. Personally, I find it easier to wash, cut, and peel all of my vegetables at one time and just throw the scraps into the pot as I go. This way, I am cooking with fresh scraps and I have containers full of ready-to-eat carrots and celery sticks that I can grab at lunch time.

Instructions: Throw all ingredients into a pot and fill with water until the water is an inch above the food scraps. Make sure to use the largest pot you have so that there is room for the water to boil. My pot was so full that the broth ended up boiling over onto the stove. Bring everything to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add some salt and stir. Then let the broth simmer for a minimum of four hours. When it’s done simmering, drain the broth and store it in the refrigerator. I drained it by putting a colander over another large pot and then transferred the broth into containers. Some fat particles were left in the broth. I don’t mind them but if you want your broth to be completely smooth, you can use cheesecloth to drain it instead of a colander.

That’s it! Chicken broth is so easy to make at home and so much cheaper than store bought chicken broth. I also think it tastes a lot better and I like that it’s fresh. This recipe yielded a lot more broth than I thought it would, about four liters worth. I plan to use the broth in homemade chicken noodle soup, Spanish rice, and egg drop soup.

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Practicing Self Care

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The more time you spend caring for others, the more likely it is that you will put your own needs on the back burner. If you do a lot for people, you are probably thinking: ‘My needs can wait, my children need me right now.’ And if it’s not your children, then it’s your parents. Or your spouse. Or your friends. And while it is important that we are there for the people that we love, there is one thing that compassionate people everywhere fail to understand: You cannot take care of anyone if you do not take care of yourself first. How will you help your children with their homework when you are so sleep deprived you can barely think straight? How will you help a friend cope with their depression when you are neglecting your own mental health? We all have our limits. The sooner you recognize them, the better off you and your loved ones will be. Find ways to care for yourself and to cope with everyday stressors. If you are not sure where to start or if the only idea you can come up with is a much too expensive island vacation, I’ve come up with a list of simple, healthy coping strategies that anyone can use.

Have a spa day If you can’t afford to go to the spa then you should pamper yourself at home. Soak in a bubble bath with epsom salts and essential oils. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Give yourself a foot massage with sugar scrub.

Go for a drive Crank the radio up and clear your head. (Note that you should try to avoid driving if you are upset or distracted because this could cause you to wreck).

Go for a swing This is one of my favorites. I find the motion of rocking back and forth on a swing to be very relaxing. As it turns out, there is a science behind it. The rocking motion stimulates your system to release more dopamine, the chemical that makes a person happy!

Jump on a trampoline In the same way that swinging releases dopamine, the jumping motion can make you happier as well. Plus, it’s fun.

Exercise Getting in at least thirty minutes of cardio a day has been proven to improve your mental health as well as your physical health. Even if you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you could take a walk (or jump on a trampoline) to get these benefits.

Go out of town It doesn’t have to be a week in Miami. Even if you can’t afford to take a luxurious vacation, a short change in routine and scenery will do wonders when you’re stressed. Go visit relatives (if you have any that you enjoy spending time with) or stay at a friend’s beach house for a weekend.

Listen to music I like to do this most when I’m on my swing. Music really helps you to clear your mind and distract you from life’s stressors. If you’re really upset, try listening to some happy, upbeat music. I know a lot of people, myself included, like to listen to songs that match their mood. However, I find that when I am upset, listening to sad or angry songs on repeat only drags me further down into a bad mood. By contrast, happy music can help lift you out of a bad mood.

Read a good book If you enjoy reading, there is no better get away. You can forget all your own troubles and become immersed in the troubles of your favorite characters instead.

Watch a good show As with music, I would recommend something light-hearted that puts you in a good mood. The last thing you need is to be upset about your favorite character getting killed off again when you already have enough to worry about in reality.

Bake Punching a bowl full of dough is a great stress reliever. Making something that you and others can enjoy is uplifting too.

Find your inner artist Art is a great way to express your feelings, even if you’re not good at it. I can barely make a poster much less a real work of art, but even simple doodling can be soothing. And you could always fill balloons with paint, tape them to a canvas, and throw darts at them like in The Princess Diaries.

Find your inner child You are never too old to color, play with playdough, or build a fort. In fact, being childish can be a great stress reliever. They even make adult coloring books now for this reason. So grab your dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and a coloring book, and chill in your blanket fort with a glass of wine.

Spend time with friends Even if you’re an introvert, being connected with people is important to your health and happiness. You don’t need to have a lot of friends to be happy with your social life, you just need a couple people that you can talk with, laugh with, and be yourself around.

Talk it out We all need to vent now and then. Find someone who will really listen to you and support you if you are having a tough time.

Join a support group If you don’t have a great support system right now then joining a support group might be a good option for you. Google support groups offered in your area. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most famous one but support groups also exist for grieving children and parents, narcotics abusers, new mothers, people with cancer, people with mental illnesses, and many others.

Talk to a counselor If you’re having a tough time coping, seeking professional help can give you the tools you need to feel better. You will have someone to talk to and you can learn new coping strategies. Some might not want to see a counselor because they feel that there is a stigma attached to doing so. However, no one will know you are seeing a counselor unless you tell them. Secondly, you’d be surprised at how many people are in the same boat you are. While it might feel strange to talk to a professional at first, most people are glad they took that step toward a happier, healthier life.

Life isn’t usually easy, especially when you really care about people. But taking time to care for yourself can make things much easier. Find ways to let go and relax so that your life can be more enjoyable.

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Burning Out

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